They like to play silly tunes at Giant to entertain shoppers. I don’t know whose idea it is, but turn off the radio anytime, I say. Imagine how ridiculous it is when the latest R&B trash bursts from the speakers when you’re frantically trying to pick out the freshest prawns with your hand wrapped in a transparent plastic bag while fending off other jostling shoppers at the same time.
The songs played change frequently, a playlist in flux according to the season and occasion. Hence, as we enter the month of August, the theme is now National Day. Songs of which are typically cheesy and repetitive, but hearing them, I felt a familiar sense of belonging wash over me, only to be replaced by a sense of nostalgia and sadness at leaving so soon.
It’s easy to say that we have no sense of identity, being a small and young nation. Are we first Singaporeans or ethnic Chinese? Are we first a city, or a country? Are we Southeast Asians first, or the descendants of Northeast Asians? Are we immigrants first, or are we natives? Singaporeans have a complex relationship with the place they live in, one that is constantly undergoing redefinition and reinterpretation.
While backpacking on my own, I was sometimes forced to confront these issues. Is my identity Singaporean or Chinese? Do I identify more with people of other races living in Singapore, or with other Chinese living in Taiwan and China? Do I like Singapore as a country, or as a city? Am I happy and proud when I see Singaporeans overseas, or do I want to find a hole to burrow into? Do I like Singaporeans, or do I hate them? Why am I even thinking this way?
I don’t know if my generation and I will ever find the answers to these questions, but I appreciate what I will miss when I am abroad - comfort and support from family and friends. Homesickness is impossible to stave off, I know, and I have experienced it before. What is the best way to adapt to it? Force yourself to pretend that it never existed and hope it eventually disappears, or confront it head-on and recreate a bubble of Singapura in a land far away?
Its a different feeling this time, because I don’t know for sure how long I’ll be gone for, and when I will next step foot in Singapore again. Might be soon, might not be so soon.
I felt a tug.